compassion, love, mercy, kindness, empathy, understanding , sensitive, charity, heart, generous, balanced, emotions, alignment, aligned, coherence, coherent, gratitude, coach, life coach, transformation, change, heart-centered

Compassion: loved by the Divine

I’ve spent a lot of time, these last three weeks, in silence – being still with my thoughts. I also spent a lot of time binging on Netflix in between. I was trying to work through a particular pattern in my life that I was sick of repeating!

But, I also had to recognise that I couldn’t spend 8 hours a day just in inner work. I would reach a point where I was tired of thinking and contemplating, and wanted to be mindless and entertained. It felt like too much to try to work it all out.

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transformational coaching, team builders, following, Jesus, footsteps, coach, shekinah, practice presence, be present, presence of God, Holy Spirit, meditation, silence, daily

Transformational coaching: Jesus

A few weeks ago I stumbled across Doug Firebaugh’s article, titled  Jesus, The Original Networker—9 Business Lessons from the Bible  1st Sept 2016 issue of Networking Times). My curiosity was piqued about number of the points he made from the life of Jesus, particularly since Jesus, in Mark, asks 65 questions to his disciples, followers and pharisees.Overall, throughout the gospels, Jesus asks some 307 questions.

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compassion, Romans, Matthew, Psalms, Jesus, Christ, Messiah, Paul, countrymen, Christianity, moved to action, Luke, widow, sick, lame, blind, crippled, healed, hungry, practicing presence

Sermon: Compassion

READINGS:

  • Romans 9: 1-15
  • Matthew 14:13-21
  • Psalm 145: 8-9, 14-21

Compassion:

These verses from Matthew & Romans 9 contain a common theme: the compassion of Jesus for the crowd and the compassion of Paul for his Jewish countrymen.  Paul is anguished that his Jewish countrymen cannot see the truth of Christ being the promised Messiah:

9:3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred … to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, …and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, …

He expresses himself as having great sorrow and unceasing anguish for these, his countrymen: how many of us could say we feel like this for our countrymen in Panama?

Where is our Christianity, if we have no compassion? For so many people, life is hard: every story of the gospels shows us Jesus moved to action.

Take a moment with me, to consider the following passages:

  1. Luke 7: 13 – When the Lord saw her (the widow from Nain whose only son had died), he had compassion on her and said to her “Do not weep.”
  2. Matthew 15: 32 – he had compassion on the crowd that came to him with their sick, lame, blind, crippled, mute and healed them. But more so than this, they were hungry and so he ordered the disciples to feed them, all 4,000 of them!
  3. Matthew 9: 35-38 – Jesus was travelling throughout the cities and villages, teaching, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and affliction. And when he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
  4. Matthew 20: 29-34: As Jesus left Jericho, a great crowd was following him and 2 blind men were sitting by the roadside, calling out to him. And Jesus stopped and asked “What do you want me to do for you?”, and they said “Let our eyes be opened”. And moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes, and immediately they regained their sight.

Where have we, as Christians, gone wrong? I cannot imagine a Christ without compassion, but I see so-called Christians without compassion! Where has humanity gone wrong?

I want you to consider a 2, 3 or 4 year old child: if you drop something, they will scuttle to help you pick it up. If they see another child crying, they are anguished and want to make it better. They are anxious to help with the cleaning, the dishes and all those household chores. They are compassionate and caring, they notice the emotions and feelings of those around them.

But then, somewhere along the way, they lose that compassionate nature and they start to think only about self – “I want” and I don’t want to share. What happens to disconnect us from our compassionate nature? Why do we stop taking the time to say “what can I do to help this person”?  We’re living in an epidemic of incivility, disengagement, and despair – in politics, in the work place, in our homes, and even in our church.

What Is Compassion?

Compassion: put simply is empathy PLUS action. It is more than just kindness; it is sensitivity to the suffering of others with a commitment to do something about it. It is:

  • the smile we give to a stranger
  • the food we give to the homeless or our oldies in our AAAM missions program
  • giving someone the benefit of the doubt
  • it is listening to understand, rather than listening to answer back
  • it is making all conversations safe – even when we have a difficult conversation or feedback to give

We all need more compassion in our lives: a totally different perspective when it comes to how you perceive yourself and others. We start with compassion towards those we are in contact with every day in our homes, each week day in the office, or once a week in our Church.

Think of this for a moment:
Let’s say you are very worried about your daughter’s health. You took her to the doctor and he decided to take tests in order to rule out a Dengue Fever. Later that day you are in Arrocha, buying some medicines, preoccupied with your daughter and an acquaintance passes you and says hello. You say hello in return but because you are so deep in thought you don’t stop to chat.
Later on you hear the acquaintance felt insulted because you “snubbed” her. Even though it was not your intention to snub this person, and you had a very good reason for your behavior-the acquaintance assumed the worst.

That is, simply, what most of us do. We assume the worst:

They were rude! They were harsh! They were judgmental! Did you hear the tone in their voice? Did you see the way she looked at me? She ignored me! She walked right past me!

Learning to have more compassion involves making the radical shift to assume the best in others.

What would Balboa Union Church look like if every person in this Church were truly compassionate in word & deed, as Christ was?

Where Do We Start?

First – we start with ourselves!

How good are you at being compassionate to yourself? Do you forgive yourself when you make mistakes? Do you love yourself and your body? Do you take time to ask your body how it’s feeling? If you haven’t identified what you are feeling, how are you going to be able to identify what other people are feeling?  How are you feeling right now? Do you have any aches or pains? Are you feeling nervous or uptight anywhere? Is there tightness in your stomach or a tension in your shoulders? Are you carrying any tension into today from the week that was – are you carrying the past with you? Are you brooding or concerned about the future: where are you holding it in your body?

We start with baby steps: practicing compassion each day. First, I want us to take a small step towards compassion for ourselves:

I want you to think about your body scan that you just finished and what you identified: that part of your body that is tense, tight, aching, whatever it was that you felt: and I want you to bless it. Right here, right now. I want you to pray mercy on yourself. I want you to show yourself some compassion – and instead of complaining about that part of your body, “oh, that knot in my neck”, or “that pain in my knee” or “that old injury that always plays up” – put your hands on it, and say “God bless you”.  Pray love to that part of your body that you always complain about! And every time you feel that ache, pain, tension: I want you to use it as your cue to pray for yourself. Remember God’s love for you, and surround that part of your body with love, acceptance and joy: and bless it. I am sure that you have cursed it enough times already – and I imagine that’s not working for you! So, why not try something different for the next 30 days? Whether it be a slipped disk in your back, a recurring pain in your shoulder, a tightening in your jaw, a sore ankle from when you fell over: let it be reminder to you to love yourself, bless yourself and show yourself and your body some compassion!

Then the second step is showing compassion for your neighbor:

It might be just that person you passed in the street: if you are out and about a lot, in your car, I want to suggest that you use red lights, stop signs or just the traffic jams, and allow them to be your “pause”. Every time you stop, take a deep breath, notice how YOU are feeling, remember you are God’s representative in this world, and then breath out a blessing on another person – maybe a pedestrian that is crossing the street, or the person sitting in the car next to yours, or the traffic cop that is directing the traffic. And each time your car stops, take a moment to pause, to breathe in God’s love, and to exhale a blessing on another person: to reach a point where the red light or stop sign becomes your cue to cultivate compassion, and it helps you establish a habit of compassion for your fellow man.

And then, I want you to bring compassion home, to your house – the place that it is most needed! Unfortunately, most of us treat the people that we live with, our families, with a certain level of disdain that we would not give to others! And it takes extra effort to treat them with compassion, because you really know them, flaws and all! Each morning, take a moment to ask yourself what act of kindness you can perform today in your home, however small.  If you really want a challenge – try the 40-day love dare for your spouse or a person that you live with in the same house!

The world needs Christians that actively practice compassion and caring for their fellow man.  Without compassion, our love towards God is meaningless!

Let’s pray:

Spirit of Life,
Thank you for the opportunities to love that present themselves in the turmoil of life!
When the light catches the tears in another’s eyes, in moments without words, let us be present.
Let us seek to make another’s wellbeing the object of our concern.
Give us compassion and humility in our hearts. Let us be kind, gentle, generous, loving, giving and forgiving wherever we may go. Allow us to be as compassionate as the air we breathe. Give us the strength to help our brother, to pick up those who have fallen. We declare and decree that we will follow the example Jesus has set before us, in his Mighty name we pray!
Amen

 

Sermon: He shall not judge…

HE SHALL NOT JUDGE

ISAIAH 11:2-4

2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth…

December is upon us in Panama – with its terrible traffic, frustrations as you try to get more done than you have hours in the day, and little patience for all the barriers you may find along the way.

  • There are school functions, plays, ballet performances, and all kinds of events that require your time and attention.
  • Mothers’ Day presents to buy and dinners to plan.
  • Christmas parties for the office, with friends, PTA and end of year celebrations.
  • It’s that time of year when you may well find yourself seated next to that difficult person: the complainer or the proverbial GRINCH of Christmas!
  • If you have children, they may be adding to the stress of the season with their demands for presents and the heightened anxiety of “I want”.

Everything clamouring for your attention and adding extra stress to an already busy schedule. And we are, as Christians, expected to put our right foot forward – with the Christmas Spirit-being the bearers of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, as expressed through our Advent Candles.

Our Gospel reading this morning in Matthew 3 indicates that Jesus’ coming promised a baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire – that will sift through the wheat (or good) in our lives and a fire that will burn through the chaff (or that which is not productive or of any value).

And how will God know what is good and valuable in our lives, versus that which is not productive? Well, as we see in the verses of Isaiah 11:2

…the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
Isaiah goes on to say in verse 3:
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear

And as Christ’s followers, we are all called to follow this example!

Not judge by what our eyes see or decide according to what our ears hear, but rather with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, that Spirit of counsel and might, and that Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON?

If I could sum it up in one word, that one word would be simply this: “empathy”!

Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about!

Kindness is a wonderful way to let another struggling soul know that there is still love in this world.

We are not to judge others simply by the impressions of what our eyes see (or our perceptions or misconceptions) or what our ears hear (whether that be gossip about a person or even what we think we heard them say)… But rather, we are to allow the Spirit, through wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord guide us to what is right.

Our opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge: It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy – it requires that we suspend our egos and for a moment to live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding. (Bill Bullard).

Empathy is:

  1. Seeing with the eyes of another;
  2. Listening with the ears of another; and
  3. Feeling with the heart of another.

So, what would be wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord look like at Christmas time?

The Spirit of Wisdom at Christmas time might be as simple as:

  1. looking after yourself, making sure you’ve given yourself enough time to get where you need to be, without being overly stressed about running late;
  2. having snack food in the car with you or in your purse, so you’re not in a bad mood from low sugar levels;
  3. taking a moment before you get to the mall or a shop to speak with your youngsters about what you will or won’t buy for them, so that they have clear expectations and are prepared for the “no” when you have to give it to them; and
  4. thinking through the obstacles (traffic, queues at the cashier, etc.) before you get started, so that you are already prepared to face them and take them in your stride as they appear.

The Spirit of Understanding at Christmas time manifests itself as simply:

  1. as giving your child 10 extra minutes of cuddle time when they are upset, realising that they need to feel heard, even though they are being completely irrational or unreasonable, because you care (even if the answer is still no);
  2. planning “alone time” or “down time” for the introverts in your household that need to recharge their batteries after being overwhelmed with too many sights, sounds, people and stimulations of the Christmas season;
  3. identifying that person that’s sitting off in a corner by themselves, and sitting down with them to have a one-on-one conversation for 10 minutes, because you realise that they are overwhelmed by crowds, but love to have one-on-ones, without trying to “draw them in” to the crowd, but rather meeting them where they are at; and
  4. giving the extroverts in your family the party and group time that they need to enjoy the festive season, even if you are feeling up to it.

The Spirit of Counsel at Christmas time requires that we take time to listen to God:

  1. It’s sitting in the car for 2 minutes, outside your home, and, before you get out, breathing deeply and allowing yourself to relax and be present:
    a. Identifying how you are feeling and why you are feeling this way;
    b. Breathing your way through leaving the day you have just had and any frustrations you were bringing with you, so that you don’t take those negative feelings home to your loved ones;
    c. Identifying who and what will be waiting for you inside, so that you are present with them when you walk in the door; and
    d. Praying for your loved ones before you walk in.
  2. The Spirit of Counsel is putting before God your concerns and worries, and then listening to God’s response – this means clearing your mind so that God can speak with you.

The Spirit of strength at Christmas time recognises that you are strong enough: Whatever today’s challenge is – you are strong enough – God promised to give you strength for today. If you will focus on today and today’s struggle and stop trying to deal with tomorrow’s struggle and adding tomorrow’s stress into the mix, you are strong enough! They say:

Depression comes from living in the past.
Worry and Anxiety come from living in the future.
The only place of peace is living in the present.

The only place you have any strength and power is in today – you cannot change the past and you cannot act in the future. Your spirit of Strength, this Christmas season, is when you are present in each day. When you focus your daily energy on what you need to get done today: therein lies your strength. If you need to have a conversation with someone today: have that conversation. If you need to have a conversation with someone tomorrow, program it today, and then leave it in tomorrow.

Give us this day our daily bread

It doesn’t say: give us this week or this month… just one day. Remember that this Christmas season – you are only given this much. The person standing or sitting in front of you is only given that much. All either of you have is today.

The Spirit of Knowledge at Christmas time –

  1. It’s using Waze to find out how long you are going to spend in traffic to be able to get to Atlapa for the Ballet presentation by 4.00 p.m., and leaving 2 hours beforehand, and having downloaded onto your iPod or phone on December 1st 12 hours of new Audiobooks, podcasts, meditations and other uplifting material so that you don’t feel like being stuck in traffic is a complete and total waste of time;
  2. It’s knowing the quirks of each one of your kids, nephews & nieces or other kids that you will be spending Christmas day with, and preparing yourself how to deal and interact with them to be a blessing to them; and
  3. It’s reading an article or book on a subject very close to the heart of a person that you will be spending time over the Christmas season with, so that you have a topic to talk to them about.

And finally the fear of the Lord is remaining humble… realising that you are no better than anyone else, that you are the product of all your experiences, decisions, and the people that God has put in your path each day of your life, that have made you into who you are today.

The fear of the Lord is what reminds us “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.

  • You are that child that is having a temper tantrum in the shopping mall;
  • you are that mother that doesn’t know what to do with her child who is hungry and tired and over-stimulated by all the sights and sounds;
  • you are that old man who’s in a bad mood and grumpy because he’d rather be somewhere else;
  • you are that young man behind the wheel beeping the horn because he’s in a hurry and frustrated that the traffic is not moving.

Whatever you are faced with over the coming weeks, remember that you are filled with the Spirit of the Lord: and this Spirit does not judge by what your eyes see or decide by what your ears hear.

You are called to be the light of the world – be LOVE this Christmas season.